Through the first two months of the Orioles' season, second baseman Ryan Flaherty's reputation hinged much more on his glove than his bat.
In 30 games, Flaherty was perfect in the field. At the plate, though, he struggled, starting the year 0-for-17 and batting .133 before being sent down to Triple-A Norfolk on May 18.
But after being recalled Wednesday night, Flaherty showed some offensive life, going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the Orioles' 9-6 comeback win over the Washington Nationals and 1-for-3 with a run in Thursday's 2-0 victory..
"No one wants to get off to a slow start," Flaherty said. "It is nice to come up here and get the hit right away, but, like always, it's a long season, it's a long grind. Take it each at-bat at a time."
In his first at-bat Wednesday in the second inning, Flaherty came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and third. After taking a called strike, he pulled a fastball from Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann down the right-field line to score first baseman Chris Davis. In his second at-bat, Flaherty again waited for a fastball, driving it up the middle for a single. He would score four pitches later on designated hitter Steve Pearce's home run.
He led off the bottom of the third Thursday with a single off right-hander Dan Haren and scored the game's first run on a double by Nick Markakis.
"Obviously, when you get back up here, you want to help the team right away," Flaherty said. "I got up there my first at-bat [Wednesday], had a guy in scoring position with two outs, so it was nice to get him in and try to help the team out."
Flaherty's two hits off Zimmermann marked his first multi-hit game of the year in the majors. During his eight games with Norfolk, he had four two-hit games, batting .265 with two home runs and five RBIs.
Flaherty also showed the glove that made him a valuable asset to the club's 2012 postseason run. In the bottom of the second Wednesday, Flaherty helped turn a 5-4-3 double play after Washington's Ian Desmond reached base to lead off the inning.
In 109 career games with the Orioles, Flaherty has batted .192 with eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 25 runs scored. But with production similar to what he did the past two nights, Flaherty could help bolster the bottom of the lineup. Manager Buck Showalter believes the offensive ability is there, but it has to show up consistently in the majors.
"We don't have anything to measure it against," Showalter said. "He hasn't done it before. It's kind of new territory. I don't have a track record. I don't know what he's going to be. But I know he's going to give himself a chance to be good."
Orioles pass on Andino
Second baseman Robert Andino, whom the Orioles traded to the Seattle Mariners in the offseason, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday, according to an industry source.
The Orioles had a chance to claim Andino — they would have had to assume what remained of his $1.6 million salary — and declined. It was discussed internally, but the Orioles decided to stick with Flaherty and Alexi Casilla at second base.
If they had wanted to make room for Andino, Flaherty could have been sent back to the minors, but the Orioles would have had to ask waivers on Casilla, and if he had cleared, would have been responsible for what is remaining on his $1.9 million salary (including a $200,000 buyout for 2014).
The Orioles have had four players start at second this year: Flaherty, Casilla, Yamaico Navarro and Brian Roberts. Combined, they hit .204 with a .266 on-base percentage, two homers and 11 RBIs in the club's first 53 games.
Andino, who was with the Orioles from 2009 to 2012, hit .189 with a .253 on-base percentage in 29 games with the Mariners. He was sent to Seattle for outfielder Trayvon Robinson, who is currently at Norfolk.
J. Johnson closes the door
When Orioles closer Jim Johnson took the mound in the ninth inning Wednesday night — his first appearance since blowing a three-run ninth inning lead Sunday in Toronto — he was greeted by a chorus of cheers from the Camden Yards crowd. Minutes later, the right-hander shut the door with a quick 11-pitch inning that ended with a three-pitch strikeout of second baseman Danny Espinosa for his 16th save of the season.
He needed just 13 pitches to save Thursday's win. He got Denard Span to ground out to second, struck out Roger Bernadina swinging and got Ryan Zimmerman to ground out to third to retire the side in order.
Wednesday, Johnson got Chad Tracy to line out to first base on the second pitch of his at-bat, and he and struck out catcher Kurt Suzuki on six pitches before setting down Espinosa on a changeup.
"I feel better," Johnson said before Thursday's game. "I'm always trying to improve and I'll continue to do that. ... threw three off-speed pitches and two were good. At this level, it's usually about location."
Catcher Taylor Teagarden will begin a minor league rehabilitation stint today at Norfolk and will be re-evaluated at the end of the weekend. Teagarden, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a left thumb injury, is scheduled to catch nine innings today for the Tides, then catch seven to nine innings Saturday and serve as the DH on Sunday.
Outfielder Nolan Reimold (right hamstring) could go on a rehab assignment next week. He's continuing to improve.
"All of a sudden you come in and you don't feel it," Showalter said. "So he's getting close to that. If it happens over the weekend, I'd love to thinks he's going to take some at-bats."
Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to make his fourth minor league rehab start with Norfolk today. Wada is 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA, having allowed 13 hits and nine runs over 13 innings, but Showalter said Wada made strides in his most recent start Sunday, in which he allowed three earned runs in five innings. The Orioles can keep Wada in the minors until June 15, and they likely will.
Around the horn
According to an industry source, the Orioles are one of several teams that have kept tabs on 33-year-old right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who is 3-4 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts for the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate. Wang can opt out of his minor league contract today — and at the end of each month. He likely would do so only for a major league rotation spot. The Orioles do not appear to be seriously pursuing him at this point. … Norfolk outfielder Lew Ford had sports hernia surgery on Thursday in Philadelphia. It was performed by Dr. William Meyers, who also did Ford's hernia surgery in October. Ford, 36, was batting a combined .228 in 21 games at Norfolk and Double-A Bowie. … Norfolk right-hander Jake Arrieta threw 80 pitches over five shutout innings Wednesday night and allowed just one hit. ... Former Raven O.J. Brigance and his wife, Chanda, were at Camden Yards to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's game. May is national ALS Awareness month, and on Thursday the Orioles hosted The Brigance Brigade Foundation, which provides assistance for people dealing with the disease, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.